Andrew Doyle/MUNICH

CargoLifter is expected to announce the selection of the Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 turboshaft as the powerplant for its giant CL160 airship at a shareholders meeting scheduled for mid-March.

Industry sources say Rolls-Royce (R-R) and French partner Turbomeca have already been officially informed by the German airship company of the decision.

However, CargoLifter claims the engine choice has "not been finally decided" and it is continuing to evaluate rival bids from General Electric and Pratt & Whitney Canada, which are offering the T700 and PT6 respectively. "There are still some open points we have to discuss before we make a selection," it adds, while confirming that the decision will be announced at a 17 March meeting.

Each CL160 will be propelled by eight engines and be capable of cruising at speeds of up to 68kt (125km/h). Smaller "thrusters" will be used to manoeuvre at low speeds. The semi-rigid keel design envelopes some 550,000m³ of helium for a maximum payload of 160t, which can be carried over distances of up to 10,000km (5,400nm).

CargoLifter, which had a successful initial public offering last year, aims to fly the first CL160 by 2002 and put the airship into series production by 2005.

The first assembly hangar is located at Brand, near Berlin, Germany, and CargoLifter has selected a second production site in North Carolina in the USA. Up to four CL160s will be produced per month, to be owned and operated by CargoLifter.

The company says, meanwhile, it plans to seek shareholder approval to buy back 10% of its shares for a possible equity swap with a "strategic partner".

Source: Flight International